PETALING JAYA: Restaurant and coffee shop owners reacted with shock over the announcement that only local cooks can be employed in food premises beginning Jan 1 next year.
The announcement by Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran yesterday caught many by surprise.
Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association president Ayoob Khan Muhamad Yakub described the announcement as “shocking and horrific”, adding that the Government should discuss the matter with stakeholders before making a regulation that will affect many restaurant owners.
“It is never an easy task to hire local workers for mamak (Indian Muslim) restaurants,” said Ayoob, adding that most Indian Muslim restaurants in the country hire South Indian cooks as their wages were reasonable and the culture of the workers were compatible with ours.
His comments were echoed by Original Kayu Nasi Kandar proprietor Buruhan Mohamad, who said it was “near impossible” to not have foreign cooks working at restaurants.
“We can try getting local cooks but it will take a longer time to train them with our recipes and for them to get the dishes right,” he said yesterday.
Malaysia-Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors General Association president Ho Su Mong said many coffee shop owners would find they were unable to comply with the regulation given the short time frame.
“It takes about one or two years to train a person to cook (a type of cuisine) well. There wouldn’t be enough time to train locals to cook,” said Ho, adding that coffee shop owners would gladly employ local cooks if there were enough of them to meet the demand.
“For local food and small-scale businesses, such as (the regulation) for Penang hawkers, it is okay as you only need one or two cooks for a stall, but it is not workable for bigger coffee shops or restaurants,” he said.
He said many locals were also unwilling to do blue collar jobs, such as being cooks, and their salary demands were high.
“For example, in Johor Baru, coffee shop owners are offering RM3,000 to RM4,000 a month but you still can’t get locals as they want to go to Singapore where they can get higher pay,” Ho added.
Malaysia Federation of Hawkers and Petty Traders Associations president Datuk Yow Boon Choon, however, welcomed the regulation as it would open up job opportunities to Malaysians.
“I think as a Malaysian we should support local food being cooked by locals. It is a good step to give local cooks more opportunities,” he said.
Persatuan Restoran Selangor dan Wilayah Persekutuan Ku Su Shin Choong Hung secretary-general Datuk Ringo Kaw said the announcement came as a surprise and urged the Government to engage with all stakeholders first before making any decision.
“Such policy changes should be made after consulting the restaurant owners and industry players. It should not be implemented abruptly. I think the Government should discuss the matter with all the stakeholders first,” he said.
Members of his association include owners, chefs and managers of Chinese restaurants.
Kaw said the policy could have a negative impact to the food and beverage industry.
“This may affect businesses. The cost of doing business (under the new policy) will be higher for owners who depend on foreign workers to cook,” he said.